The subordinating conjunctions, ‘when and while,’ are commonly used to connect dependent clauses to the main clause.

They are used to show cause and effect, linking two ideas together. ‘When’ and ‘while’ appear when two actions coincide.

When is usually used to identify or show the specific time or a period close to the exact time the first event took place.

While on the other hand is used to show continuous tense, meaning it shows that two actions were done at the same time or during the period described.

When to correctly say: While working

While working is correctly used when you want to show two actions done simultaneously. While it shows continuous tense meaning for a certain period, different tasks were undertaken simultaneously.

For example, she read the email while working. This shows two other actions simultaneously, working and reading the email.

These tasks were covered simultaneously and had no definite period to which each changed or stopped.

When to correctly say: When working

When working has its difference in that it shows the period where the first event was closer to the time of the second event.

‘When’ focuses on the specific time the event is said to have happened. Joining the two clauses ‘when’ will primarily involve one action that happens simultaneously, especially close to the time of the second act.

For example, she read the email when working today. This shows that the two activities were done during a defined period.

Key differences between “while working” vs. “when working”

The critical differences witnessed between the two revolve around the context of time. Therefore, it is crucial to know how the events followed each other and whether they were done at a definite time or continuously.

When used, the two conjunctions give different meanings and thus can affect the message you intend to share.

The difference between the two subordinate conjunctions is finding suitable contexts, especially when addressing time.

Take away

The two conjunctions can be easily mistaken and sometimes even used without changing the meaning of the message.

However, identifying the difference between the two is necessary to emphasize the different messages or contexts.

Also, progressive actions can help you differentiate as it uses action verbs that use ‘while’ and ‘when,’ showing that an action was in progress at a specific time.

These tips can help you build your sentences more confidently using suitable conjunctions.

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